Coleman, K., Robertson, N. D. 2018. Training non-lactating rhesus macaques to act as foster mothers. American Journal of Primatology 80(S1), 34-35 (40th Meeting of the American Society of Primatologists Scientific Program, Abstract #94).
There can be psychological and physiological consequences resulting from nursery rearing rhesus macaques. To reduce the need for nursery rearing, orphaned infants are often placed with lactating foster mothers. Unfortunately, a supply of these lactating females is not readily available at most institutions. We implemented a program using operant conditioning to train non‐lactating rhesus macaques to act as “foster mothers” to abandoned or orphaned infants. Females chosen for specific temperamental traits (e.g., boldness) were trained to allow the infants to bottle feed cage‐side. We have successfully fostered 27 infants with 11 foster dams (89% success rate). Foster‐reared (FR) infants were fed following the same schedule as nursery reared (NR) infants, and remained with the foster dam until approximately one year of age. We compared clinical and behavioral outcomes of FR infants with 15 NR infants. There were no differences in weight gain (birth to 1 year; t = 0.34, df = 38, p = 0.74) or illness (chi square = 0.86, df = 1, p = 0.35) between FR and NR infants. However, foster‐reared infants were less likely to develop stereotypical behaviors than NR infants (chi square = 7.0, df = 1, p = 0.008); to date, none of the FR infants have developed behavioral issues. Utilizing trained foster mothers provides an alternative nursery rearing, thereby improving overall welfare for macaque infants.